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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, February 25, 2021

On the deaths of eleven-year-old boys

 It has been a new year of heartache.  Friends have dealt with losses in their families, some involving suicide, which leaves a permanent  and often disabling break in the heart.  One  never knows what to say.  One fears that words of condolence may aggravate the wound rather than offer a measure of comfort.  But it is a time when one shares the sorrow experienced by friends and wants to express understanding and support.  

Nothing devastates as much as the death of a child.  Even though I'd never heard of him before, news of the death of an eleven-year-old boy from hypothermia in an unheated mobile home hit as hard as if he were he one of my grandchildren.  Part of the reason is that eleven-year-old boys hold a special image in the mind.  At eleven, they begin the transition from childhood to adulthood.  When they make that transition in an attentive family, they experience the typicalities of adolescence.  But when they are without a functioning family, their stories are dispiriting, often tragic.  A priest who had been assigned to work with children in an orphanage said to me that no one is more vulnerable to the iniquities of the world than an eleven-year-old boy.  His words are haunting.  

Over the years as an instructor of writing for college students,  I have encountered the stories of children who are left to face the world on their own--and they are many.  The ones that never fade from memory are the accounts of young boys.  One was of an 11-year-old who escaped the malice of a troubled mother by becoming a street child.  After a brutal episode, he simply walked out of his house one day resigned to living on the street.  His history from that point ranged from horror to redemption.  His mother was fine with his action.  His father was torn between trying to help a troubled woman and providing a home for an abused son.    The child lived through the intrusions of government agencies, ending up in college where I learned of his story in a writing class.  At 11, he had ventured into a world he had little knowledge of with the hope that he would learn the tasks of living as he went along.  He did.  But he said it was a mistake:  any eleven-year-old setting out on his own is destined to suffer.  His redemption came when a friend told a youth pastor at a church of his plight and the pastor got him into a denominational-sponsored residential center, which eventually enabled him to return to his family.  His account of his experience noted that most such cases did not have happy endings.  Eleven-year-olds don't make it on their own.

Some die in cold beds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The rise of the shitgibbon.

We know that the coronavirus has the ability to mutate  into highly infectious and deathly forms.  We never worried too much about what kind of lethal variant the shitgibbon might become.  And then, along came Trump.

The shitgibbon has a way with language.  It can turn a sentence into a seething pile of feces, the species source not always recognizable. If it is like nothing you've ever heard (and prefer not to} it is the droppings of the shitgibbon. 

Shitgibbons tend to run in packs.

                                                                         They also pout a lot.

If you aren't careful, they will take over the country and make it a pile of poo.

Woops.  You weren't very careful, were you.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Remember Chernobyl. Because that's where we are now.

                                                   Chernobyl is too toxic for any living thing.

A large portion of Ukraine is off limits after the worst nuclear accident in history blew up the reactor at Chernobyl.  About 1,000 square miles of the region is considered too toxic to be inhabitable.

Much of America is toxic and devastated and unlivable.  It was contaminated by Donald Trump.  There are personalities that cast a blight on humanity that leaves it sere and barren.  That is the case with Trump.  His term as president gravely reduced the expectations of humanity.  Rather than contemplate how good humankind can be, we've been forced to confront how wretched it often actually is.  Although Trump has departed from the White House, the intellectual and moral desolation he leaves behind lingers.  Half of America chooses Trump's desolation over a nation devoted to the better angels of our natures.  

Although an American majority made a choice for a more beneficent leader in Joe Biden, a significant number prefers Trump.  And that number shapes the political landscape.  The image of America today is captured in the video of Marjory Taylor Greene following behind a victim of the Parkland school shooting, David Hogg, insulting and abusing him.  That is an image of how vile and malevolent America has become.

Bad things happen in America.  But rather than denounce them and take measures to prevent them, people like Marjory Taylor Greene take pride in the them and celebrate them.  It is the equivalent of sending up a cheer when Nazis  shoved Jewish babies into gas ovens.  

America has become a moral Chernobyl.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States